Frankfurt am Main: The Real Gotham City
December 3rd, 2020
Article by Maya Heins
Photograph by Maya Heins
2020 was a shitshow: the world really could use a real-life superhero to come save the day. Luckily, I have found the earthly home of Batman, and contrary to popular belief, he’s not to be found in America.
Frankfurt am Main is located in central Germany on the River Main. The fifth largest city in Germany, it is home to over 750,000 people, and recognized for its local specialties Apfelwein (sour wine made from apples) and Grüne Soße (a green sauce made from seven different herbs, typically eaten with hard-boiled eggs and potatoes), as well as for its impressive skyscrapers. A major European financial hub and home to the European Central Bank, it houses the largest airport in Germany. Even though tens of thousands of people pass through Frankfurt every year, few rarely leave the safe confines of the airport or Hauptbahnhof (central train station) to take in the city. As they pass through on the way to their final destination, the masses miss the opportunity to experience a boisterous city that is home to none other than Batman himself.
Rarely do I meet someone who has come to Frankfurt just to see Frankfurt. So where does this lack of outside interest stem from? Well, it is probably partly due to the fact that Frankfurt is infamous for being one of the most dangerous cities in Germany. “When broken down to the number of crimes per 100,000 inhabitants, Frankfurt am Main rates as the most dangerous city in Germany with 16,292 crimes per 100,000 people.” A fun nickname that I have repeatedly heard from other Germans when referring to Frankfurt is “Stadt der Verbrecher” which literally translates to “City of Criminals”.
As soon as anyone leaves the giant dome of the Hauptbahnhof, they land directly in the heart of the city’s Red Light District. Here, it is not an uncommon sight to find people openly smoking skunky smelling herbs that leave the inhaler squinting at the sunshine through demon-red eyes, vomiting their guts out behind a trash can reeking of urine, or even using the broad daylight to find a vein to shoot up. And all of that’s before you even make it to the brothels and their neon-pink signs openly promising a form of sex that’s quite illegal in many parts of the world. Certainly, it’s not the world’s cleanest or prettiest district by any means. Perhaps it is the proximity of this seedy neighborhood to one of the major transportation centers in the city that explains the notoriety Frankfurt has gotten. Add Netflix shows like Skylines to the mix, and you have got yourself a recipe for an indisputable reputation as a city full of lawbreakers. Sounds a bit like Gotham City, doesn’t it?
Yet, the similarities to the made up world of Batman don’t just end with the fact that Frankfurt is the German hub of criminality. There is also a bat-signal: The Commerzbank Tower. A massive glowing batman-yellow beacon, it illuminates the heavens in unparalleled grandeur, setting the tone for evening outings in a mysterious glow that constantly keeps you wondering what or who will cross your path that night. In a city of criminals, you never really know what might happen, but you can be sure that whatever does you won’t be left alone in the dark to deal with it. The bat signal will light your way home.
The only thing left needed to prove that Batman is secretly living in Frankfurt? The Batmobile. Frankfurt is a city full of fancy bankers, and fancy bankers drive fancy cars. And what better hiding place is there for the Batmobile, than a city full of overly expensive automobiles?
So when the impending apocalyptic doom of 2020 and the constant reminders in the news of your own mortality start to really get you down, just remember it isn't all bad: Batman is real. He lives in Frankfurt.